Once the sleepy backwater of electoral politics, judicial elections
have recently become a battleground where right wing and corporate
groups spend large sums to fill the courts with jurists who will
support their interests. This is perhaps the most troubling example of
money corrupting our politics, because instead of pay-to-play politics
it gives us pay-to-win justice. The independence of the judiciary
simply cannot be maintained in an environment where jurists are
competing for votes in high-priced, bare-knuckle political brawls.
Over the past decade, elections for state high court seats have gone
from sleepy, mildly partisan affairs to major political battles with
huge campaign spending, millions in independent special interest
advertising, and misleading and negative attacks in the forefront.TV advertising is now apart of virtually all (91%) contested state supreme court elections, up from about one in five elections in 2000.And in 2006 business groups were the source of more than 90% of those ads.Business groups are also the source of almost half of all campaign contributions in these races.
When an impeccably pro-business outfit like Business Week declares victory for the business lobby in shutting the courtroom door to victims of corporate negligence, you know injured consumers and workers have been losing badly. But this week's cover story, How Business Trounced The Trial Lawyers, illustrates how the corporate right leveraged campaign contributions in the last decade to hijack state policy on civil justice.